Looking for good books on wood
May 18, 2009 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Woodworkers of MeFi, what reference books about wood do you recommend? Please note that I'm not looking for books on the craft of woodworking so much as for reference books on the varieties of wood and their properties.

My dad is an accomplished and avid woodworker. He's also more or less obsessed with wood and trees and and will talk about wood for hours on end if he can find a family member to listen to him (usually he can't, and can you blame us). Whenever he and my mother travel he brings back samples of wood, such as pieces of whiskey barrels from Scotland. If anyone in my family cuts down a tree he's there to get some of it. He made an hourglass out of my cousin's lilac bush, and it was gorgeous — pale wood with delicate purple veins.

I just ordered The Wood Book: the Complete Plates, by Romeyn Hough for my father's birthday because he's been wanting it for years, but browsing through other books on the topic on Amazon leads me to ask, what other books might he like? I understand The Wood Book just covers American trees, and certainly he'd be interested in something more international. I can be pretty sure he'd like a number of the books I saw on Amazon, but I'm hoping to get personal recommendations from woodworkers based on familiarity with reference books they use and love.
posted by orange swan to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Based on the description of your dad, I think The Wood Book is probably the best bet as your first choice.

More workman and reference-like would be Wood: Identification and Use.

Also, the USDA's Encyclopedia of Wood might suit your dad. Be warned, it touches heavily on technical and scientific aspects of tree species, but that sounds like his thing, doesn't it?
posted by seasparrow at 8:56 AM on May 18, 2009

Fine Woodworking [Tauton Press] Book section?
posted by Freedomboy at 9:06 AM on May 18, 2009

"Understanding Wood" by Bruce Hoadley is an excellent primer on physical properties, but may not appeal to your dad's artistic, touchy-feely side. Fine Woodworking's "Wood and How to Dry It" is a collection of old magazine articles that offer ideas for small-scale wood drying setups.
posted by jon1270 at 9:14 AM on May 18, 2009

The Wood Book is an excellent choice, and one that is tough to beat... but looking over my books while scanning them into Delicious Library, I have a few possible additions.

In terms of purely reference books, the field guide-type are probably your best bet. The other books I have on my shelves are less to do with identification than with the artistic and (for lack of a better word) spiritual qualities of wood and trees. However, they might also be of interest: I hope this helps!
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 9:32 AM on May 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

I can't seem to google this up without the name which I can't remember but there are books completely constructed from a single kind of wood that are a reference book on that tree. The book contains samples of seeds/cones, bark, sometimes a cross section, leaves/needles and is made of paper made from the tree with covers made from slabs of the tree. Often the binding is the bark of the tree. I've got a shelf reserved for these in the shop I'm building.
posted by Mitheral at 9:39 AM on May 18, 2009

Seconding Understanding Wood. It was the reference bible for wood species and odd uses while I was a traditional boat building apprentice.
posted by gofargogo at 11:05 AM on May 18, 2009

I'll third Understanding Wood. And although it's not a book, may I suggest this wood sampler from Lie-Nielsen?
It's been on my wish list for awhile myself.
posted by qsysopr at 12:40 PM on May 18, 2009

There's a beautiful book about Sam Maloof...I don't know the name of it but it is large and there's a lot of wood porn in it.

You might try Eric Sloan's A Reverence For Wood. It's not reference, it's not how to. I don't know how to describe it. It's a visual essay on loving wood. Sounds like your dad might like it. Any of Eric Sloan's books would be good and there are quite a few of them.
posted by sully75 at 1:40 PM on May 18, 2009

I like my copy of What Wood is That?
posted by notyou at 5:28 PM on May 18, 2009

A Reverence for Wood, by Eric Sloane.

Mostly focused in Eastern hardwoods and their use in early American history.
posted by Tube at 9:37 PM on May 18, 2009

Thanks, everyone. I should be well-prepared for many future Christmasses, birthdays, and Father's Days.
posted by orange swan at 11:12 AM on May 24, 2009

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